Wine buying decisions in hospitality

Customers are crying out for support when buying wine, according to our new research which found that 1-in-3 customers don’t feel confident ordering wine in pubs, bars and restaurants, with 1-in-9 admitting that they often find the experience intimidating.

The research, in partnership with Hallgarten & Novum Wines, looks at the wine buying decisions when ordering in pubs, bars and restaurants. It found that 70% of wine drinkers don’t feel that pubs and bars provide enough information to help them make an informed decision when ordering wine. The research showed that restaurants fared slightly better with the equivalent figure being 43%.

A lack of confidence and guidance when ordering wine

1-in-3 find the words used to describe wine on menus too confusing and ambiguous. This is particularly true of younger drinkers, this figure is 1-in-2 for Generation Z yet these younger wine drinkers are also a lot less likely to ask staff for help or advice.

“Operators need to train their teams to taste wine and talk about it in a language that they can relate to. If they can relate to it, then so can your customers. Use less formal knowledge – most customers don’t care what soil or type of oak a wine comes from, they can’t relate to that. But what they can do is relate to other elements. Organic goes some way to connecting with the consumer, but the clear winner here is sustainability.”

Harry Crowther, Grain to Grape

For a category that is as emotive as wine, it should be seen as a warning that 1-in-3 wine drinkers say they don’t feel confident when ordering wine in a pub, bar, or restaurant. Whilst the layout and copy on menus are critical in helping give greater clarity and confidence to customers, there is also obviously a key role for staff to play when it comes to breaking down this confidence barrier. Nothing can replicate the ease at which well-trained and knowledgeable staff can put the customer when guiding them through their selection.

“From your staff to your wine list, every word and letter counts. Remember every wine rule or fact a customer comes across will be like an open door of discovery for some, and another door slamming in the face for others.”

Richard Siddle, Editor, The Buyer

Understanding the wine buying experience is critical

“The hospitality industry has changed significantly over the last few years, as have the demands of its customer-base. It is therefore more important than ever that the industry better understands guests’ wine-buying mentality. 70% of our customer-base lies within the hospitality sector and compilation and design of restaurant, bar and pub wine lists combined with Front of House training lies at the core of our service to the On Trade; this research will go a long way in helping hospitality operators better understand the needs and mind-set of the wine consumer, enabling them to provide a more tailored and effective service.”

Andrew Bewes, Managing Director of Hallgarten & Novum Wines

The research highlights that the reality of the wine ordering experience currently isn’t perhaps quite what we might hope. In the last 12 months, 1-in-3 wine drinkers had found that a wine they wanted from the menu wasn’t available. Nearly 2-in-5 had been served wine in a dirty glass and a further 15% said wine hadn’t been served at the ideal temperature.

Since lockdowns, we are seeing a much more discerning customer base. Venues must recognise the value proposition for customers – if the experience isn’t there then it’s a much easier decision for them to enjoy their wine experience at home instead of going out. Getting that experience right is key for venues and with a category that customers find so enjoyable, it needs to be dialed up to ensure it’s an experience that they don’t forget.

The full “Wine Decisions” whitepaper can be downloaded for free here.

Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).